It all started when Anneke Scott, principal horn player, researcher and Associate of the Royal Academy Music, was digging into the archives of the British Library in London. In one manuscript marked ‘Anonymous’ she quickly recognised an arrangement of the famous aria from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, ‘La ci dare la mano’, when the carousing Don attempts to seduce the bride-to-be Zerlina. ‘There we will give each other our hands,’ he normally sings, but in ‘Air Varie Pour Corno’ it is the horn that takes the melody.
The ‘instrument of the cuckold,’ is perfectly suited to the arrangement. And so the first piece in the Mozart: Stolen Beauties concert begins. In the beautifully restored large room of Glebe Town Hall, it is as if we have entered a private dining hall in Venice or Salzburg, even though it’s Victorian decor we are surrounded by.
We launch into the hidden past of ‘Mozart and friends’ – of borrowing and tagging and imitation. In this superb virtuoso concert for horn, strings and fortepiano, Mozart is ever present, but hidden, behind other people’s arrangements, interpretations and variations.
A historic horn is not something you see everyday up close, and much to the wonderment of the many children seated on the floor, Anneke takes time to demonstrate and explain its origins, beginning with the hunting call, and then it’s ‘eureka moment’ when it was discovered that placing the hand in the bell produced extra sounds, and ending with the valved French horn instrument we have today.
Stolen or borrowed or neither? Haydn’s Romance in Ab Major is up next, and reflects themes in Mozart’s Third Horn Concerto. As close friends, the composers often shared material, the big questions is: who wrote it first? Did Haydn ask Mozart to finish this piece for him? Or did Mozart get there first? Some things we will never know!
Haydn’s Romance certainly screams Mozart in the beautiful sweeping lines played sensuously by lead violinist Rachael Beesley. Recently launching orchestra seventeen88 in Sydney, it’s no wonder that Rachael is highly regarded as guest concertmaster and director.
In Giovanni Punto’s Duos for horn and cello, rearranged from horn and bassoon, Anneke Scott and Daniel Yeadon deliver the raw, natural and yet perfect simplicity of the baroque. The celebrity horn player of his time has obviously arranged a perfect vehicle for his own versatility. In Scott’s hands, I can only repeat what Pavlo Beznosiuk said: ‘On an instrument which is perilous at the best of times, Scott’s technique is such that one is aware only of intellect, musicianship and a glorious pallet of sound.’
The concertante ‘Kegelstatt’, takes us a step closer into the world of Amadeus, with this rearrangement by Barham Livius in the 18th century replacing clarinet with horn. With Neal Peres Da Costa’s ‘historic keyboard amazingness’, as viola player Nicole Forsyth describes it, the piece reveals this small chamber orchestra as a powerhouse of energy and sensitivity.
Finally, but only as an encore, the famous Mozart Horn Concerto no 4 in Eb Major, a perfect vehicle for Scott’s historic horn, showing its hunting roots, its potential for romance and of course the heroic.
Never predictable and always surprising with a tight program, this exceptional chamber orchestra has again delighted with this concert series, a perfect launch for their CD of the same title: Mozart: Stolen Beauties. After their intense Broken Consorts concerts with Ensemble Offspring, and tours in the USA and the UK, we looking forward to the Schumann and Brahms Ironwood concerts in Augusts.